Children clamor out of their classrooms and into the recess yard. Rather than scramble to gain possession of footballs, basketballs, Hula Hoops and other equipment, the children quickly form six lines.
The man in the bright yellow shirt leads them in a cheer to review the rules: Respect the game. Play hard. Have fun.
And with that the children break from their formation to begin a Playworks recess.
“Last year probably two or three times a week we were resolving some type of issue that would (happen) on the playground, but since (Playworks began) we haven’t had any,” said Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence, principal of Bethesda Elementary School.
Educators reported Playworks helped save more than eight minutes of classroom time per day previously spent resolving playground conflicts, according to 2010-11 Playworks school survey national results.
“(Students) are able to resolve any types of conflict or issues that may arise in a very diplomatic way with rock-paper-scissors, and that’s even translated over into our classrooms,” Moore-Lawrence said.
Playworks is a nonprofit organization that employs a full-time coach to run recess and other activities for schools. Bethesda and eight other schools in Durham started using Playworks for recess this school year.
The Playworks model emerged from the idea of using play as a tool to prevent bullying and teach conflict resolution to students, said Camelia McCandies, Playworks’ program associate in Durham.
“We try to come in there and preserve what the essence of recess is about, which is really just playing together, making new friends, gaining some confidence and leaderships skills and those types of things,” she said.
Recess time consists of various game stations where students play things such as Hula-Hoop, 3-on-3 basketball, soccer, football and jump rope.
Initially, recess at Bethesda only had a few stations and no basketballs, soccer balls or footballs until students learned how to play the games safely and follow the rules, said Zachary Seegers, Playworks’ coach at Bethesda.
In addition to recess time, Playworks also provides a leadership development program where several students in the older grades are appointed as junior coaches to help teach and monitor the games.
Other aspects of Playworks include a class game time, developmental sports leagues and either before- or after-school programs.
It costs each school $25,000 per year.
About 60 percent is paid by Durham Public Schools through a federal grant and the rest is covered by the schools’ Title 1 federal funding, said Stacey Wilson-Norman, the school district’s area superintendent of elementary curriculum, instruction and school improvement.
“We’re looking at it sort of as a test run to see how it will go,” Wilson-Norman said. “If it’s successful we’d like to possibly look at it supporting some other schools.”